Category Archives: Relationships

Song for a friend

lonely sea

 

I thought you were someone                                                                                      

I guess that you’re not.       

I got a lot less

than I thought

than I thought.

Should have known next time

meant never.

 

Those things that you said

which ones did you mean?

Seems me we don’t speak the same language.

Did we ever?

Should have known next time

meant never.

 

Found myself looking for a letter

One that will never arrive.

It’ really doesn’t matter, anyway,

I deleted your address from my hard drive.

I should have known next time

meant never.

Should have known it meant

not ever.

 

I’ve wrapped up my love

and put it away

So if I say stay

I mean never.

Should have known your heart

much better

that next time means

not ever.

A sad game of chicken

How proud former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee must feel. His “Chick-Fil-A angry chickenAppreciation Day,” turned into record sales for the fast food company. Supporters of the chain and its president, Dan Cathy, have also been flocking to Facebook to tout their love of all things chick-filleted. The thrust of their comments usually goes something like this: “I just ate at Chick-Fil-A and stood up for Christian values and freedom of speech.”

Well, bully for you.  But you just don’t get it.

The outcry over Cathy’s stance against gay marriage isn’t about freedom of speech. Cathy can say whatever he likes about the issue. That’s his constitutional right. If he finds gay marriage abhorrent due to his religious beliefs, he has the freedom to express that opinion.  And while I find his take on homosexuality troubling, it’s not nearly as troubling as the hoards of people who felt driven to rush out and buy a sandwich to show their support for a homophobe. Because let’s face it—that’s what this was all about. It wasn’t, as Mike Huckabee said, an effort to defend a business from Americans who “don’t like [Christian] voices.” Absurd. Travel a mile in any direction in this country and you’ll find a Christian church. America is predominately made up of Christians, so don’t give me this bullshit about how poor Christians are being oppressed.

However, Huckabee’s words bring up an interesting point. Just what is the Christian voice? The long held view, that same sex marriage is a sin, is changing. The Episcopal Church has approved blessings for same sex couples. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has allowed openly gay men and women in same sex relationships to become ordained ministers. I am not suggesting that these decisions have been easy to make–the differences of theological interpretation on homosexuality have split apart the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches.  Fundamentalist congregants believe that homosexuality is a sin in the same way the Vatican does, in the same way Dan Cathy does. But these differences of biblical interpretation reflect that there is no Christian “party line.” There are many Christian viewpoints, depending on the denomination, the church, or the individual you ask.

Listening to Cathy say that he hopes God will have mercy on those who “have the audacity to define what marriage is all about,” you would think his is the only true Christianity despite a variety of Christian attitudes on the subject. Seems to me Cathy’s pretty audacious in making that claim. Just who does he think he is, anyway? God?

When someone places himself (or herself) upon a pedestal of piety, looking down on all of those who don’t believe the same way, he’s asking for criticism. And that’s what Cathy got. Gay rights groups spoke out about his judgmental views and they had every right to do so. Just as they have every right to boycott Chick Fil-A because they don’t want to support a company who is anti-gay and donates money to hate groups like the Family Research Council.

Hate. That’s the crux of this issue. Ask yourself: do you really think that all those people who stood in line at Chick-Fil-A to show their “appreciation” would have done so had the tables been turned? If it was the gay community showing its support because Cathy endorsed gay marriage? No way.  What we have are sections of America so repelled by homosexuality that they will band together in greasy fast food franchises for some sort of perverse communion to make themselves feel better about their prejudices.

A friend of mine wondered how all the gay children, whose parents attended the chicken party, might feel. Good question. Not a great message of compassion, is it?  In fact, Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was a downright cruel and unfeeling demonstration, showing not a whit of caring for anyone who might face the challenge of being gay in such an unwelcoming environment.

And what about that guy these so-called Christians all claim to follow? Who told us to love one another? Had he been around, I have a hunch he would have bypassed Chick-Fil-A and gone for sushi.

Goodbye, again

Life is full of goodbyes, so many of them. Too many.

When I was a young idealist, I thought anything was doable, was possible. You could help anyone who wanted to be helped.

Now that I’m older, I realize how impossible that all is. It would be wonderful indeed if, to paraphrase Lennon and McCartney, all you needed was love, but sometimes love just isn’t enough.

I lost a friend today. She wasn’t a close friend and hadn’t been for a while. Maybe ever. The truth is I had grown uncomfortable around her over the years.*

*For the purposes of this blog and to protect her family, I’ll call my late friend, Meghan.

Meghan suffered cruel storms inside her head. Through the years the suffering grew worse and was so painful to watch that friends and acquaintances began to keep her at a distance. I admit I was one of those people. I didn’t know how to help Meghan; her troubles were like a whirlwind that threatened to swallow up anyone who came too close. The last time I talked to her she was in a psychiatric unit, desperate to get out. She’d attempted suicide and survived but the terrible injuries she endured as a result only deepened her depression. A hopelessness settled in and stayed.

There had been better times. Times when Meghan danced to her beloved jazz music and spoke with delight about her passion for the humanities. She had a keen eye and always had something original to say about a painting, a sculpture or a film. But as the better days faded away, it seemed as if her big, kind heart was just too heavy for her to carry. The pain seized control and Meghan’s speech grew staccato, like rapid bullet fire, her thoughts racing so quickly ahead she could barely keep up. Meghan’s life had become a burden to her, not a gift.

And so, she’s gone. It’s too easy, too convenient to say she’s at peace now. But I do. I hope Meghan’s found the quiet her mind never gave her in this living world. But I’m just so sad she had to go through all she did to get it.

 

Stick a fork in it!

I love entertaining, giving parties, cooking for friends. Making a meal for someone is a creative, personal gesture. Using your hands to pat, mold, shake, stir and bake food for your guests to ingest is, well, a downright intimate act. And one to take seriously. Of course, not everyone does as I was reminded when I read an article in the New York Times about the challenges of cooking for those with dietary restrictions.

I understand that it can be a pain to modify a menu for dinner guests. But that’s what you do for guests, right? I’ll never forget the time I went to a girlfriend’s house for dinner. I had told her beforehand that I didn’t eat red meat. Halfway through a meal of elaborately concocted turkey and vegetable wraps, I discovered that she had snuck thin slices of pork into the mix. Later she bragged about fooling her vegetarian-leaning friends this way because she thought their dietary preferences were “ridiculous.”

Rude, right? But not just rude. It’s reckless to serve a dinner guest a food s/he chooses not (based on moral or religious beliefs) or cannot (due to allergies and health reasons) eat. I remember one Christmas when I presented a neighbor with a plate of cookies. I was feeling pretty good about my gift until my neighbor spit out the bourbon ball she had almost swallowed. Not knowing her that well, I had forgotten that she was a recovering alcoholic.  I felt terrible. She was forgiving but the memory has stayed with me for years. Same goes for the time I served an acquaintance (who later became a dear friend) a dessert made with regular white flour. I had overlooked the fact that she was allergic to gluten. Not good.

I’m much better about noting—and remembering—the food preferences and/or intolerances of my friends now. I’ve learned their food restrictions are a lot more than just “picky eating.” When one of my favorite couples came to dinner recently, I made two meals—fish for her (the only animal protein she would eat) and chicken for him. I didn’t serve nuts either as both were allergic and I didn’t want to send them to the hospital.

So, I try. But to intentionally serve a guest one of their forbidden foods as my girlfriend had not only done but delighted in doing? The word, “sadistic,” comes to mind. Needless to say, I didn’t share many meals with her after that stunt.

A few years ago, I heard she adopted a couple of kids. I sure hope they don’t have any food allergies.

Neither a borrower, a lender (nor a bully) be

 

She said good days ain’t got no rain

She said bad days are when I lie in bed

and think of things that might have been.

~Paul Simon

 

I don’t remember what the disagreement was about. It wasn’t even an argument, just three fifteen year old girls talking after gym class. There was Maxi—open and popular, knowing when to show her cards or hold them close. She usually had aces until later on when the drugs took hold (but she made it through). Mel didn’t have aces but she took what she could get. That day it was drama. About a boy—what else? Mel had had him and now she didn’t. But she wanted to tell us that it was more than that, more complex, and of course, it was. Because life usually is.

Mel told her story from a place of deep focus that was in high contrast to the soft spring day around us.  But she held Maxi’s attention, and mine, to a point. I had arrived late to the conversation and didn’t yet understand what the sorrow was all about. I mean, why so serious?

My insights on the matter of Mel’s failed romance lacked gravitas but I offered an opinion anyway and hoped for a little levity. Instead, without warning, Mel reached out and struck me in my left breast. I say “struck” but “slugged” is more like it. The feeling wasn’t unlike the time when, as a child, I had maneuvered the wrong way around my mother’s new coffee table and tripped, belly flopping against its side.

“Got the wind knocked out of you,” my dad told me as I gasped for air that threatened to come a terrifying second too late. “You’ll be okay.” And as dads often are, he was right.

But Mel’s fist against my breast was even more of a surprise than the result of that long ago afternoon tumble. I didn’t see Mel’s fist coming because I didn’t know I was falling.

“Uh…ha.” Maxi’s uncomfortable laugh brought me back to myself. A response was required but all I could do was look at Maxi in the way one does when seeking rescue from acute embarrassment. This was the the moment for me to stand up. To look Mel in the eye and let her know she had crossed the line.

Instead I filled my mouth, still gaping wide, with my own awkward chuckle and didn’t do a damn thing.

Looking back, I realize that worse than the act of physical violence was Mel’s cool self-assurance that there would be no negative repercussions. Mel knew I wouldn’t protest because she recognized bone deep approval seeking when she saw it. And as was the tradition of all doormats, I had lain down in the dirt and allowed her not just to wipe her feet but to kick me when she was finished.

I was reminded of this the other day while searching eBay, hoping to find an album my sisters used to play when I was a kid. It was the era of acoustic Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary. But I was looking for a group far less well known—the Chad Mitchell Trio. The trio had gone through various incarnations (Jim McGuinn aka Roger McGuinn who later founded the Byrds, played banjo for the trio; and John Denver replaced Chad Mitchell, namesake of the group, before he eventually left to pursue his solo career) but it was the early days of the CMT I preferred. Particularly, their Best of 1963 collection which was interspersed with live and studio recordings. I loved that album and, along with listening to it, Peter, Paul and Mary and Meet the Beatles, learned to sing. When my sisters left home to find careers in a bigger city, I inherited the CMT album (along with some first edition Elvis Presley and Everly Brothers 45s) and I tossed aside my Popeye the Sailor Man discs and began my first real music collection.

Chad Mitchel Trio album coverAfternoons when I got home from school, I threw the trio on the hi-fi, singing along to songs about the John Birch Society and Billie Sol Estes*. Now I had no clue that these songs were political satire but I learned the lyrics and and sang with conviction (I credit the trio for subliminally making me the proud liberal I am today). But there was more than just jabs at current events on the record. The lovely 19th century Irish folk ballad, Green Grow the Lilacs, Woody Guthrie’s Great Historical Bum and even a square dance song—Hello Susan Brown—provided me with hours to flex my vocal chords and pique my growing interest in all things lyrical. So it was with a special mixture of carelessness, naïve trust, and stupidity that not quite a decade later I loaned this prized possession to a girlfriend who hoped to expand her repertoire as an up and coming singer/ piano player. You guessed correctly. It was Mel, or as I fondly remember her, Slugger.

*Billy Sol Estes was a businessman from Abilene who went to prison for bilking millions of dollars from Texas finance companies and farmers by conning them into paying for nonexistent tanks of fertilizer. This wasn’t particularly happy news for his friend Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson when Congress held investigative hearings about the scheme.

Now I honestly don’t recall if I allowed Mel to borrow the CMT album before or after her fist made contact with my left breast but I admit it could have been afterwards. I was gullible and anyway, forget and forgive, right? The times they had-a-changed, and Mel left my house also carrying with her the hackneyed Doors’ album, The Soft Parade, Spirit’s debut record , and Grand Funk Live (one of my adolescent blips on the good taste screen). Chad and the boys didn’t quite fit with the rest of the hard rock crew but I liked to think of myself as a rock music aficionado with eclectic tastes.

Mel assured me she would get the records back to me the next weekend.

“That’s okay,” I told her, maintaining my role as suck-up, “take your time.”

And she did. About four years worth.

***

It was on a visit to my mom those four years later that I decided to get in touch with Mel and retrieve my records. I’d been in my old room, looking through belongings I had left behind while I attended college. Just like my sisters, I had abandoned those things I felt I had outgrown. But as I flipped through what remained of my orphaned music collection, I realized I missed my Doors album and especially the Chad Mitchell Trio. I looked up Mel’s name in the phone book, took a deep breath and dialed her number.

“Hello?” Mel’s voice sounded the same.

“Hi, Mel. This is a friend from your past,” I joked, trying to keep it light. After spending a minute catching up–married? Kids? How’s school going—I got to the point.

“Mel, remember those records I loaned you before we graduated? I’d really like them back. Could I come over and get them?”

“Records? I don’t remember…”

“You know that Doors album and—“

“Oh yeah. Well (heavy sigh), I’ll have to look around for them. I just moved, ya know.”

Uh, no, I didn’t know. Why would I?

“I’d really like them back,” I persisted (you’re doing great, I told myself, keep it up).

Okay. I’ll be home Friday night.”

She gave me her address then added, “It will be good to see you.” Really? Wow. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

***

Dressed in my new black cords and ribbed Steel blue shirt, I sat on Mel’s couch. Her boyfriend and a couple of her teenaged cousins were there. The television was blaring some stupid sitcom and Mel was laughing and carrying on, enjoying being the center of attention. But mostly she enjoyed ignoring me.

After an appropriate amount of time had passed, I asked for my records.

“Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ll get them,” Mel said sinking further into her recliner and starting up a new round of laughter with her cousins

An hour went by.

“Uh, Mel. I’ve got to get going. I really need to get my records.”

“Oh, all right.” Clearly put out, Mel pushed herself out of her comfy chair and headed for what I assumed was her bedroom. A minute later she emerged holding some worn looking albums.

She handed me the stack. “Thanks, Mel!” I was so relieved. There was my Doors album right on top. I glanced through them—Grand Funk was there and Spirit but wait a minute—where was the Chad Mitchell Trio?

Mel was back in her recliner, smoking a Marlboro, focused on her “real” company.

“Mel?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a second. I want to see this part of the show.”

And so I sat for another fifteen minutes. Finally the program ended. Mel reached for the TV Guide.

“Hey, Mel. I think there’s a record missing.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, my Chad Mitchell Trio album—“

Not even looking in my direction Mel shrugged. “Oh, probably. I don’t know where it is. Somewhere around here.”

“Well, can you get it?”

“Oh, its just too much of a hassle. It’s in a box somewhere.”

I didn’t yet know what passive aggression was but my gut told me that it wasn’t unlike that day when Mel had slugged me on the tennis court. Only this time it was something more underhanded.

My corduroy pants began to feel much too tight. It didn’t make sense. Not when I was feeling so small.

I had to go home. I couldn’t wait to get out of those cords.

“I’m taking off,” I told Mel and stood up. “Thanks for the albums.”

Mel stayed put in her recliner. “Yeah, well, maybe I’ll find the other record and give you a call.”

“Okay, that would be great. Bye, Mel. Thanks, again.”

I think she said goodbye but I don’t remember. I just wanted to get back to my mother’s house so I could rip off my cords and take a shower. It wasn’t until I was in bed that I allowed myself to face what I had realized as I sat paralyzed on Mel’s couch: Not only had Mel known exactly where the CMT record was but I had once again failed to stand up to her. To stand up to a bully. And more importantly, to stand up for myself.

***

A few years ago, visiting a friend up north, I found the 1963 CMT album in a local library. My friend checked it out for me and we made a copy. It’s barely listenable due to all of the skips, scratches, and bumps from who knows how many years of wear and tear. I’ve since been able to download a few individual songs from the internet but the album in its entirety remains out of print and apparently has never been converted to a digital format.

I don’t always think of Mel when I listen to those old folk songs. But music can spark memories like little else can so she occasionally comes to mind. For a long time I’ve imagined myself reacting differently on the tennis court that day. At times I wish I had hit her back or at the very least, told her to back off. What is it they say about standing up to a bully? The bully often backs down (I have since learned, sadly, that this is not always the case). Would Mel have backed down? But another question comes to mind. If I had stood up to Mel that spring day, would she have, four years later, still refused to give me my CMT album? Would I have even loaned those records to her? I might have gained much more insight into her character—and mine—had I stood my ground. All of those (mostly) fruitless internet searches would have been unnecessary because I would still have that album.

Yeah, I know, the proverbial “what if?” But it was a lesson that the actions we take—or don’t take—even as kids—can create a mold that’s harder to break as we grow older. I like to think I’ve learned well how to assert myself since those experiences with Mel. But I wonder. If I had stood up on that tennis court all those years ago, maybe it would be just a little bit easier now.

Paradise…not (Part Three)

This is the conclusion to the story of my Hawaiian vacation from hell.   

Ah. An entire afternoon at the beach. Finally. Waikiki was more touristy than I  had imagined but the crowd was sparse and I wasn’t complaining. I had a thick enticing novel, giant towel, sun block, and pair of dark glasses.  I just wanted to Lanikai_Beach_Oahu_Hawaii_7089read, listen to the waves and doze. I looked over at Sheryl, already sacked out on her lawn chair.

Or so I thought.

“HEY,  I want to talk to you about something.”

I put down my book. “Okay,” I said tentatively and turned to find Sheryl’s face scrunched into a scowl.

(Oh God, what now?)

“I am really disappointed with you for not taking Mark and me out to dinner. You’ve been here, what, a week now? Not once have you even suggested we go out.”

“But  last night we went to that Thai place you recommended. My treat. I—“

That doesn’t count, “Sheryl informed me. “That was just the two of us. What about Mark?”

“I thought Mark had to work?”

“That’s not the point. “

Apparently not.

“Well, “ Sheryl said, “we’re taking you to the Polynesian Cultural Center tomorrow. You can make up for it then.” She stood and folded up her lawn chair.

“What, we’re leaving? We just got here!”

“I told Sandy we would go to the movies with her,” Sheryl informed me.

“Oh. What movie?”

Sophie’s Choice.”

“That’s a great film!”

“You mean you have already seen it”?”

“Yeah. About two weeks ago.” (Gee, was that okay?) “But please go ahead and go. I’d rather read anyway.”

“Well, why can’t you just see it again?”

Hmmm. Well, maybe because I don’t want to sit through another two and a half hours watching Nazis torture people no matter how wonderful Meryl Streep is in the movie?

“I’d rather not, Sheryl. I just saw it. I don’t mind at all if you go without me.”

“Ya know, I really don’t like your attitude,” said Sheryl, slinging her beach bag over her shoulder.  “What’s with you anyway?”

***

“Mm, this is sooo good.” I took another lick of my macadamia nut ice cream, ignoring Sheryl’s disapproving  glare. At this point, I didn’t care if she thought my butt was as big as her old VW beetle, I was going to enjoy myself.

Sheryl, Mark and I had spent most of the day wandering around the Polynesian Cultural Center, a sort of Hawaiian Epcot, taking in the tiki Hula girlcarving and hula dancing, sampling poi and pineapple (I definitely preferred the latter), and going on a canoe ride.  I’d sprung for the tickets which set me back sixty bucks but I figured I would do just about anything to keep the peace at this point. I was flying home soon and didn’t want my visit with Sheryl to end on a sour note (despite the fact that the entire trip, thus far, had  been downright bitter).

“Hey, look up,” Mark cried as he pointed his camcorder in Sheryl’s and my direction. Mark had just bought the camera and was planning on a making a little movie of our adventures at the Cultural Center. Having gulped a Mai Tai or two before indulging in my ice cream cone, I was feeling little pain as I smiled for the camera. Sheryl even seemed more relaxed. “Let’s stop and buy a couple of bottles of wine for tomorrow night,” she said. “We can get a pizza and watch Mark’s movie.” Sounded good to me.

***

The next night after devouring our pizza, we opened the second bottle of wine and prepared for the show. Mark dimmed the lights, popped the videotape into  the VCR,  and plopped onto the couch. “You’re going to love this,” he assured us. “Pass me my Oscar.”

“You’ll have to settle for this instead,” said Sheryl passing him the wine.” Mark grabbed the bottle, poured a healthy  glass full,  and pressed ”play”  on the remote. The video began with a brief dedication:

 TO MY WIFE, SHERYL, THE BEST LEI IN TOWN

“Get it? Get it? “Mark shouted. “Lei. Lay. Ya know, laid!”

“Oh, Mark, you’re so funny,” Sheryl giggled.

Yeah, he was a real laugh riot.

Mark managed to calm himself as we watched his document of our day at the Poly Center—the hula performances, wood carvers, craft exhibits. Lovely shots of Sheryl. He’d pretty much caught it all. Except…

“Hey Mark, I thought I was in some of these scenes.”

“Oh, I cut you out of those,” he said. “Don’t worry. You’re in one coming up.”

And he was right. Suddenly there I was.  Me and my macadamia nut ice cream cone, all up close and personal.

“You were really chowing down on that thing,” Mark howled.

I wanted this to be over. Mark’s video. This trip. My life.  The camera quickly cut away from me and my melting ice cream to a large hula girl, seen from the back, her hips shaking her grass skirt into a frenzy. But wait—there I was again, my ice cream cone further up my nose before the hula girl’s giant hips jiggled back into view. Each edit was faster than the last until the montage  concluded with the camera’s zoom lens as far up the hula dancer’s skirt as it could go.

“Oh my God,” Mark crowed, “you can see right through that skirt!  Man, what an ass!”

You could say that.

***

Late that night we watched the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life. Along with the usual M.P. absurdities is a scene where a vacationing couple visits a resort. As Hawaiian music plays in the background the tourists discover their room is actually a medieval dungeon.

I started laughing.

“I don’t get it,” Sheryl remarked.

A few minutes later, in another sketch, a grotesquely obese man dines in a restaurant. The man, Mr. Creosote, consumes so much food that he must regularly vomit into a bucket next to his table.

‘Guess he’d had enough.

I started laughing harder.

“That’s not funny,” Sheryl said.

No, it wasn’t.

Two days later I boarded a plane for the mainland and headed home.

***

Seven years after my visit to Hawaii, I heard from Sheryl. She called one night to tell me she was in town, would I like to get together? After I recovered from the shock of hearing her voice, I told her, sure, I would see her. She said she would call me at noon on Saturday so we could firm up our plans.

That Saturday I woke and made my usual coffee. I tidied up my apartment, showered, and put on a pair of new jeans with my favorite sweater. When the phone rang at noon, I didn’t answer.

Paradise…not (Part Two)

GET OFF that towel, young man! Get off of it right NOW!”

It was 8:00 A.M. and Sheryl was already yelling at one of the kids–a ten year old boy wearing red bathing trunks and neon green flip-flops. Lanikai_Beach_Oahu_Hawaii_7089 Sheryl taught special education students at a nearby elementary school.  Now that the academic year was over the fifth grade instructors had taken the kids to a three day camp on a private beach outside of Honolulu. It was a sort of “last hurrah” before everyone went their separate ways for the summer. It was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen.

“I don’t want to! You’re a bitch,” cried the boy, tearing off a flip flop and hurling it in the direction of the ocean.

“You got that right! We are going to breakfast, NOW.” Sheryl grabbed the child’s arm, pulled him to his feet and looked over at me. “Are you coming?” she asked.

“I think I’ll read for a while. I’m not really hungry.”

“Well, you will never lose weight by skipping breakfast.” She started to walk away then stopped. “Oh yeah. We’re making chocolate covered peanut balls after we eat. I’ll need your help,” Then she proceeded onward, dragging the flailing boy with her.

Well, I figured, a snack couldn’t hurt.

***

We had been at camp just shy of 24 hours. I had hoped that after our adventure at sea, things would settle down and we could relax a little but it was not to be. Two nights before I left for Hawaii, Sheryl had called to tell me about the camp. “You don’t have to come,” she assured me in her southern lilt. “It’s fine if you want to hang out at the apartment. Mark will be at work.”

Mark was in the Army and his and Sheryl’s apartment was located on a military base. It would have been easy for me to take a bus downtown to shop or site see. But I felt a bit uncomfortable staying behind so I told her it was no problem, I would tag along.

The morning after the disastrous sailing trip, I had second thoughts.

“I’m not so sure this is a good idea,” I told Sheryl at breakfast.

“What’s not a good idea?”

“Going to camp with you. I’m still feeling really jet lagged. It might be better for me to stay here, after all.”

Sheryl nearly spit out her coffee. “No! I don’t want you staying here. Mark will be working. He’ll be busy.”

“But you suggested I stay here when we first talked about this. It’s not like he’ll have to entertain me. I can do stuff on my own.”

“I said ‘no.’ You’re not getting out of this.” Sheryl stood and took her coffee cup to the sink. “You’d better get ready. We have to meet the kids at the school in forty five minutes. Remember to put your cup in the dishwasher.”

***

It wasn’t long before I saw that Sheryl’s teaching skills were not, shall we say, on the subtle side. For reasons I didn’t understand, yelling was her foremost method of communication with her special ed students.

“Yeah, that’s her style,” said Sandy, a fellow teacher. “I guess it works for her,” she shrugged.

I guessed it must though I couldn’t imagine how. Every few minutes it was “Get over HERE,” “Go over THERE, and “I am not going to say this AGAIN,’” but it wasn’t long, of course, before she was saying it AGAIN.

After two days of this, I was beat. Once they got the kids to sleep, Sheryl and her teacher buddies would sit on the beach and gab but all I felt like doing was going to bed. Of course, that didn’t mean I would be able to get any genuine rest. On our first night Imetal framed bunk beds for Hawaii story quickly discovered that the children and adults would be snoozing together on a series of bunk beds in two sleeping quarters—one for the girls, the other for the boys. Each bed had a dull  gray metal frame that came equipped with a mattress about as thick as a matchbook cover. Who were the previous campers, I wondered. Monks wearing hair shirts?

The first night passed without much incident except for the usual, “I need to go to the bathroom,” requests from kids who had gulped too much apple juice at dinner. But the second night wasn’t quite so serene.

“He’s touching me, he’s touching me! He’s touching my woo-woo!”

Woo woo? Wha? It was 2:30 in the morning. I was trying to process what a “woo woo” was when  someone switched on the overhead lights and Sheryl’s vocal chords swung into action.

“What the HELL is going on?”

“It’s just Rodney,” said Sandy. “He’s having a nightmare.”

Well, that made two of us. Mine was called My Hawaiian Vacation.

I sat up and squinted. Turns out Rodney was the kid with the red bathing trunks and neon green flip-flops. Sheryl, his favorite teacher, stood over him.

“Nobody’s touching your woo woo, Rodney. Nobody!  Turn over and go back to sleep. Right NOW!”

And with those soothing words of comfort, Sheryl flipped off the lights.

***

On the third and final day of camp, we took the kids on a field trip to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout.  The site is known not just for its views of the Ko’olau Mountain Range but for its extreme trade winds. We actually had to lean into the winds in order to stay upright. Some of the kids thought this was a ton of fun. Others, however, were less enthusiastic.

I don’t like this! I’m scared,” little Wanda cried, leading the revolt. “I want my mommy! I wanna go home!”

Pretty soon most of the kids were crying. “Let’s walk down to the next—” Sheryl hollered but the wind had taken over, making it impossible to hear. Of course, this did not deter Sheryl in the least as she continued to yell soundlessly until we made it to a calmer overlook.

Catching my breath, I took in the scene. The cliffs had an eerie, menacing characteristic. I asked Sandy if she felt the same way.

“Yeah, they’re hard to take.” she said. “A 19th century Hawaiian king forced his enemies to march to the top. When they got there he told them, ‘You have a choice. We can push you. Or you can jump.’ Nice guy, huh?”

I wanna go home! Right NOW,” Wanda wailed.

***

The next morning Wanda got her wish and we boarded a bus and headed back to Honolulu. The grownups had spent the previous evening throwing themselves a “farewell”  party. Giant bowls of chips, dips (macadamia & cream cheese dip—who knew?), and 2-liter bottles of soda were spread out over the dining hall table. Sheryl continued to pretty much ignore me so I had snuck away in order to get to sleep early.

“What happened to you last night?” Sheryl asked once we were settled on the bus.

“I was tired so I went to bed.”

“Well, you didn’t have to be so antisocial. I hope you’re not going to be like that during the rest of the trip.”

End of Part Two.